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The Pleasure of Smoking

Two months ago we invited smokers to complete an online survey devised by the Centre for Substance Use Research in Glasgow.

The response exceeded our expectations. Over 600 completed the survey and the results are published today in a new report, The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers.

As you can imagine the opinions expressed by most respondents don't fit the establishment's anti-smoking narrative so don't expect to hear them on the Today programme, one of whose guest editors this week is Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies.

Despite our best efforts it's unlikely too that you'll read about the The Pleasure of Smoking in your national newspaper. So it's up to you, dear reader, to help disseminate the report as widely as possible.

Here are the headline results:

The overwhelming majority of confirmed smokers say they light up because they enjoy smoking not because they are addicted, a new study has found.

A survey of over 600 smokers by the Centre for Substance Use Research in Glasgow found that nearly all respondents (95%) gave pleasure as their primary reason for smoking, with 35% suggesting that smoking was part of their identity.

Well over half (62%) liked the physical effect of nicotine, 55% liked the way smoking provided “time for oneself”, 52% liked the taste or smell of tobacco, and 49% liked the ritual involved in smoking.

Most of those surveyed (77%) expected to smoke for many years with only 5% envisaging a time in the near future when they might have stopped.

Although a majority (56%) felt that they were addicted to smoking, many described the habit as a personal choice rather than behaviour determined by their dependence on nicotine.

Asked what they liked least about smoking, 73% cited the financial cost while 54% objected to the stigma that is now directed towards smokers.

Asked what might prompt them to stop smoking in future, the most common reasons were becoming seriously unwell as a result of smoking or exacerbating an illness through smoking.

Anti-smoking policies such as smoking bans and plain packaging were not cited by any respondents as reasons to quit smoking.

Significantly nine out of ten respondents (91%) felt they were treated unfairly by government. Only 4% felt they were treated fairly.

More than half the respondents (59%) had used alternative nicotine delivery products such as e-cigarettes. Few however were persuaded to switch permanently from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

The full press release, including comments by Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the CSUR, is available here.

I will return to various elements in the report later in the week. There's quite a bit to chew over including the reaction of respondents to e-cigarettes.

To download The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers click here.

Update: Dick Puddlecote has commented on the report here (The much ignored pleasure of smoking). See also Grandad (When smokers answer back).

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Reader Comments (6)

Thank you Simon. As the late, great Denis Potter said when describing cigarettes ' that little tube of pleasure' !

Tuesday, December 27, 2016 at 12:11 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

Was the 4% the anti-smokerism infiltration? I have never met a smoker during this last 10 years who thinks we are treated fairly.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016 at 12:44 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

Of course smokers find smoking enjoyable, if not why would they smoke? This simple fact eludes the tobacco control cult that seeks to impose their view on others. I expect the tobacco controllers will either attack or ignore these results as they vary from their well-engineered propaganda. I do hope this will be shared with members of parliament and other key legislators.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016 at 17:50 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Tobacco controllers not only dismiss the enjoyment of smoking (through their zombie "addiction" pseudo science theory), but a lot of other important issues, such as dosage (smoking occasionally, in moderation or in excess), the different tobacco products (cigarette, cigar, pipe, hooka, smokeless) and the different methods of smoking (puffing without inhaling vs deep inhalation). All these issues have strong bearings in health hazards and their different effects appear in epidemiological studies, but are either ignored or dismissed by most public health officials and even by most of the medical profession.

If tobacco controllers and regulators were real scientists they would conduct serious studies on all these important issues. Since they are merely activists and political advocates (badly) disguised as scientists, all we get from them is puritan finger waging, "de-normalisation" bullying, junk scare studies and the zombie addiction theory. For this reason I welcome this survey as a fist step to provide real data. Further surveys are needed that should encompass other issues (dosage, tobacco products and ways of smoking).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 9:14 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto


There are so many anomalies that are ignored, too. The whole modern anti-smoking movement is built on the Doll and Hill study that linked smoking (correlation as opposed to causation) to lung cancer. And yet their first study found that smokers who inhaled were less likely to get lung cancer than those who didn't inhale!

Counter-intuitive, or what?

In their subsequent study, they didn't ask the question about whether the smokers in the study inhaled or not - probably because it seriously screwed up the results they were seeking.

I understand what you are saying about not inhaling pipe and cigar smoke, the dose making the poison and all that, but there is something seriously awry here, if you lend any credence to the Doll and Hill study. And that study is, as I say, the foundation stone of the modern anti-smoking movement.

My personal opinion, based on all the information that I've read (and I've read quite a lot) is that it all boils down to genetics. We know for a fact, for instance, that certain races, and indeed some individuals, can't process alcohol very well. Their genetics just don't allow it, and for them it's a problem. I think that equally, some people are genetically unable to process tobacco smoke, and it causes ill health in them. Others, however, are demonstrably immune to any ill effects from tobacco, and smoke (and inhale) all their lives and live in good health to ripe old ages.

We are bombarded from all directions with the 'one-size-fits-all' approach from the medical establishment, and it's patently wrong. I weigh 67 kg. I've weighed 67 kg since I was twenty, with very minor variations. It's the right weight for me. I have a friend who is a couple of inches taller than me, and he weighs over 100 kg. If he weighed any less, he would appear manifestly unhealthy, because that is the right weight for him. He's heavily built, I'm lightly built. But according to the 'one-size-fits-all' brigade, he is overweight. And while we are subjected to this blinkered mindset, we will continue to be swamped with misinformation.

We are not square pegs to be forced into round holes. We are all different, genetically, physically, psychologically and metabolically. We can no more be categorised as 'all the same' as different species can be so categorised.

And for that reason, my inclination is to completely ignore any 'advice' from those who would police our health, because they are basing all their pronouncements on 'Mr Average', and of course 99% of the world's population fall either above or below that 'average' to a greater or lesser degree.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 18:02 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

Hi Nisakiman, it is amazing how the Doll-Hill study, with all its methodological flaws, is so much revered by the medical profession as jewel of epidemiological research. The claim by Doll-Hill that non-inhalation increased health risks has been debunked by dozens of epidemiological studies on cigar and pipe smokers (good summaries of these studies appear in Dr Radu's blog).

What you mention on genetics as an important factor in health risks from smoking is true. There is a high prevalence of heavy smoking among males in East Asian populations and in native North American Indians, yet they exhibit low prevalence of lung cancer and hearth disease, lower than North American whites with same (or even lower) dose of smoking. However, we are talking about statistical risks, which only make sense when referred to large population samples. Statistical risks cannot predict illness or health in individuals. Therefore, in all populations there will be individuals whose genetic makeup allows them to tolerate tobacco smoke and individuals who do not.

Besides genetics there are other "confounding factors" when comparing health risks in smokers and non-smokers, such as social class and environmental conditions. Yes there is a statistical link between heavy cigarette smoking and lung cancer, but these factors, together with dosage, complicate the design and interpretation of epidemiological studies and put into question the narrow focusing on tobacco usage as the sole or main culprit when smokers get ill, specially with coronary disease in which the relative risks for smokers are much lower than LC risks.

I fully agree with your critique of the "one size fits all" assumption on health issues. However, the problem with epidemiological studies is not the assumptions on means and averages that are needed in a statistical approach to study health hazards from lifestyles, but the deliberate manipulation and misinterpretation of the statistical findings that is regularly practiced by Public Health bureaucracies that try to micromanage our lifestyles. A particularly common (and dishonest) manipulation of health research on lifestyles is the use of results from "meta analysis" that lump together many smaller studies to get an artificially large sample (this is methodologically flawed unless all studies have the same experimental design, which is not realistic).

Given the gross illiteracy on statistics among laymen and politicians, and given a prevalent "zero risk" impossible utopia in our culture, it is easy to take risk factors out of their real (scientific) context to produce health scares that mobilize the public to support all sorts of prohibitionist agendas.

Thursday, December 29, 2016 at 3:57 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

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